The Minter Report

June 8, 2010

Obama and the Gulf oil leak

Filed under: African Americans — John Minter @ 7:05 pm
Tags: , ,

The inevitable cry has risen to ‘blame Obama’ for the oil leak darkening the waters of the Gulf. That makes for good talk radio and Fox News ‘reporting’ in an election year.

Never mind that many of us drink from the bottle of big oil companies like BP every day in our SUVs, F150s or Silverado 2500’s. Even the best of us are prone to make those quick drives to the corner store in the family sedan for a six-pack of beer, a pack of cigarettes or a half-gallon of milk and a dozen eggs.

Not surprisingly, some of the Administration’s harshest critics are the same folks who yelled “Drill, baby, Drill” not too long ago.

The reality is that off-shore oil drilling has been a cash cow for the “threatened” Gulf Coast region for years, providing jobs and tax monies many inland states have long envied. The likelihood of a spill was as probable as the plane and train crashes which occur every year. So now its time to pay the piper and everybody wants to cast blame.

Obama is no more to blame for the spill than Bush was for Hurricane Katrina, which didn’t do the major damage to New Orleans. Most of the damage occurred when the man-made levees – which local and state government neglected to fix – failed, flooding the city. Criticism of the Bush Administration is for the aftermath of the disaster – the empty FEMA trailers, the slow flow of financial assistance, and so forth.

For now, the immediate problem is stopping the Gulf leak. And its clear nobody knows how to do that. Not BP. Not the federal government. And certainly not the arm-chair and Monday-morning critics seeking to make political hay out of a disaster.

For now, it is BP’s responsibility to stop the leak. Not unless those who would have the federal government take a hands-off attitude to Wall Street’s blunders are taking the opposite stance in this case.

It is time to stop counting votes before each press conference and let those who are responsible, with government assistance where appropriate, do their best to stop the flow of oil into the gulf. The federal, state and local government roles will be in minimizing the impact of blackened beaches and decimated fishing.

We have a tort system to affix and assess blame for any mismanagement or neglect responsible for the leak. Did some cost-conscious business use faulty parts? Did some individual not follow proper safety procedures? Was it sabotaged? Frankly, no one yet knows the answer to those questions. Until we do, focus must be on stopping the spill and saving as much of the Gulf Coast’s economies and wild life as possible.


September 21, 2009

President Obama’s Leadership

Filed under: Barack Obama,conservatives,Health Care Reform — John Minter @ 11:57 pm

Those questioning Obama’s leadership need to look at the facts.

Inheriting a disastrous economy, he has stopped the bleeding and put in motion programs and policies that will help us recover. It has costs lots of money up front, but the alternative was simply unacceptable.

And the best sign of his leadership, unlike the previous administration, is the honesty and openness with which he as presented the economy’s problems and solutions to the nation. He has done so with great humility and restraint when discussing how well Obama Administration actions have worked so far.

Obama also has kept up the War on Terror, both accepting some of the Bush Administration policies and practices and by re-focusing American military might on the al Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These actions have angered many within Obama’s broad constituency and may be the main reason for his drop in the polls among independent voters.

A significant test of Obama’s leadership was having the courage to put forth health insurance reform. This action took the kind of leadership which says, ‘I do this for the good of the nation, no matter the impact on me personally.’ In the face of heated opposition – however misguided – from Republicans and the health insurance companies, he has refused to back down on the central tenant of reform, that all Americans deserve adequate health insurance and that the costs must be lowered to save individuals and businesses from financial ruin.

A good leader is not beloved by everyone because the toughest test of true leadership is doing what’s right in the face of popular opposition.

September 2, 2009

Activists Judges?

Filed under: African Americans,Barack Obama,Black Issues,conservatives,Racism — John Minter @ 9:59 pm

Dean Davidson’s (The Charlotte Observer) Forum call on 7/16/09 for no “activists judges” seems to indicate a preference for the U.S. Supreme Court which in 1857 sided with slave Dred Scott’s owners, ordering him returned to slavery and ruling blacks could not be citizens of the United States and had no property rights within any of the individual states. Or perhaps Mr. Davidson prefers the High Court which in 1896 blessed and ushered in 60 additional years of segregationist “Jim Crow” laws across the south by ruling in Plessy v Ferguson that Louisiana could segregate blacks and whites on public transportation.

The 20th Century judges who have struck down such segregationist laws, including segregated schools in this country, would not satisfy Mr. Davidson’s call to follow the “letter of the U.S. Constitution.”

Judges are often the minority’s only refuge from the tyranny of the majority. Judicial ‘activism” is then required to insure that justice reigns over temporary political and social fashion.

The term “activist’ as applied to judges has become prominent in the wake of judicial attempts to remove the last vestiges of racial, sexist, economic and religious oppression in our great nation.

It is their duty to do so, no matter what local, state or national legislative act would do otherwise.

Justice Sotomayer, ‘Latina woman’

Filed under: conservatives,Diversity,Racism — John Minter @ 9:45 pm

(This post appeared in The Charlotte Observer Forum on May 29)

Based on the Judge Sotomayor’s quoted statement, using the twisted logic of Gingrich and Limbaugh, she is also “sexist,” since she said “latina woman.” Why won’t Gingrich and Limbaugh use the “sexist” label, rather than stopping at calling her a “racist.” Just another example of their calculated attempt to divide Americans, rather than come together to deal with the long-standing problems facing American families. It is their attitude which makes is so much more critical that judges with backgrounds like Judge Sotomayor are elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court and other levels of the federal and state judiciaries.

The Gates Arrest

Filed under: African Americans,Black Issues,Racism,Youth Problems — John Minter @ 9:42 pm

(An edited version of this post appeared in The Charlotte Observer Forum on July 26, 2009)

When I covered the police and courts beats for The Charlotte Observer back in the ’80s I was amazed at the number of “resisting arrest charges” which appeared, without any accompanying charges for which the defendant would have been arrested in the first place. Most often, the defendants were young black males.

I never got a decent explanation as to how you charge someone with “resisting” an arrest that never took place. Dr. Gates “disorderly conduct” charge was a way for the officer to justify his actions and intimidate Dr. Gates.

If Dr. Gates was a poor young black male from the ‘hood he would find himself explaining that arrest, and probable conviction, on his next job interview, assuming he got as far as an interview. Fortunately for him, he’s not only a noted historian, but a friend of the president.

Most of us are not so lucky.

Pew economic mobility study

Filed under: Black Issues,Education,Inner City Problems,Poverty,Youth Problems — John Minter @ 9:36 pm

The Pew Charitable Trusts study on the impact of neighborhoods on economic mobility gives some credence to a point I’ve tried to make to local political and education leaders for some time now. Until we fix our neighborhoods, we will not close our achievement, income and health gaps in this country. Instead of blindly pouring more money into schools and prisons, we have to fix our neighborhoods. Children growing up in poor neighborhoods are difficult to educate, even with the best teachers. The stress of poverty on their families can be daunting. The debilitating effects apparently linger into adulthood.

Health Care Reform

Filed under: African Americans — John Minter @ 9:32 pm

It seems that health care reform opponents are attempting to whip the American public into the same frenzy which led us to drop the world’s greatest army into Iraq in an attempt to find and destroy WMD’s which did not exist. They are using the same strategy of lies and half-truths to stoke fear of the unknown. When will we ever learn.

Obama critics vs Bush critics

McClatchy political correspondent Steven Thomma was wrong in Sunday’s edition (The Charlotte Observer) to equate the demonstrative anger on display this month with the anger toward the Bush Administration shown during the last election.

Besides the involvement of separate political groupings, a major difference is that the anger toward the Bush Administration was for actual deeds, while the anger towards Obama is based almost entirely on lies and half-truths propagated by his Republican opponents and the insurance lobby.

Much of the shouting at this month’s town hall meetings was more about “breaking” Obama than health care reform. “Let’s take our country back” is the long held cry of right-wing conservative extremists. And across the south, many whites will never “accept” an African American president. Republicans carefully cultivated these and other extreme views to manufacture “outrage.”

The true villain in this “angry and bitter” public debate is a news media so desperate to survive that it lacks the fortitude to accurately take on those who would use fear and uncertainty to stifle progress on such an important issue as health care reform.

As a result, this country suffers.

(an edited version of this post appeared in The Charlotte Observer on 9/1/09)

September 4, 2008

What an Obama presidency would mean for African Americans


Following was published in Sept. 3 edition of The County News, where I am editor-at-large. The County News is an African American weekly covering Mecklenburg, Catawba, Iredell, Cabarrus and Rowan counties in North Carolina.

Barack Obama stands on the threshold of an historic achievement – the American presidency.

He would be the first black – at least half-black – man to reach this nation’s and the world’s pinnacle of power.

But even as Obama fights valiantly to win this election, many African Americans – and whites – are already trying to assess the meaning of an Obama victory on Nov. 4.

That victory is by no means assured, of course. Most polls indicate a neck-and-neck contest with Republican Sen. John McCain – even after last week’s ceremonious crowning of Obama as the Democratic Party standard bearer.

Some blacks are already criticizing Obama for not speaking often enough or loudly enough on “black issues.” Some noted, for example, that he did not mention Martin Luther King Jr. by name during his acceptance speech. Obama said simply “a young preacher from Georgia.” His critics missed the poetry in Obama’s phrasing. Have you heard of “the man from Galilee.”

And, Obama surely would not want to be accused by those same critics of evoking Dr. King’s name in a vain attempt to make political hay from that young preacher’s historic legacy.

Obama ruffled a few black feathers when he called recently for black men to be better fathers, a contentious issue for many who note that past and current racist practices debilitate black manhood.

Despite the criticism, however, most blacks understand that Obama is in for the fight of his life and of African American election history. Most also understand that Obama is not running as the black community’s candidate. He is the candidate of the Democratic Party, which despite its near universal support from black voters, remains an umbrella organization of a number of groups and causes. Note the Hillary Clinton inspired desires for a female president.

Obama represents the best hope of all those groups for a more welcoming America.

An Obama victory will mean much to this country and to the world.

But what that victory will mean for African Americans is not so clear.

It will not mean “forty acres and a mule” or such other reparations sought by many. While Congress and a number of state legislatures have passed resolutions apologizing for slavery, there’s no consensus on reparations for that horrible national sin.

And, while an Obama-led administration may include more African Americans in positions of power, we cannot expect the entire cabinet and other top slots to be filled solely by African Americans.

Obama is not likely to appoint all black federal judges, though its likely that at least one African American jurist could be elevated to the Supreme Court. The conservative Clarence Thomas needs a good “whist” partner, I’m sure.

Problems that have plagued the black community will not magically disappear. Black-on-black crime and high unemployment, particularly among young black males, will continue to be challenges.

Educational achievement gaps will continue to plague the nation’s public school system, though one can hope Obama would scrap or fully fund “No Child Left Behind.”

Blacks will continue to wrestle with such health issues as high rates of hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease, though Obama is promising to build a health insurance system that covers most Americans.

Those and other Obama initiatives will still have to pass a Congress where legislation looks more like sausage than pork loin.

If Nov. 5 will look pretty much like Nov. 4, why should African Americans care whether Obama is the next American president?

The answer lies at the core of what’s really the most difficult challenge facing the black community and this nation. That challenge is finding a way to inspire hope in the hearts and minds of a growing legion of disaffected and alienated young black Americans.

Obama’s story is the story America loves to tell. It’s a story of opportunity grasped, of obstacles overcome, of hard work and sacrifice. Obama rose to power not because his parents were wealthy, but because he got a world-class education and because he learned to serve his community, not terrorize it.

That’s the story that must be sold to young African Americans and others who aren’t great athletes or entertainers.

An Obama victory in November will be an opportunity for black parents and for teachers, mentors and pastors to once again challenge children to work hard in school. It ‘s an opportunity to tell our children they should dream those impossible dreams, which even when they don’t come true, carry us so much further in life and provide a compass to guide us along the way. It is our dreams, after all, that define who we truly are. It is our dreams which make us pause before making decisions about joining a gang, breaking into a house or picking up a gun. Our dreams make us avoid drug and alcohol abuse and lascivious behaviors. Our dreams keep us working on the job, not because we are working for “the man,” but because we are working for ourselves and our families.

If Obama can inspire a larger number of parents and children to be better today than they were yesterday, to study harder and to work longer, the social and economic impact on the black community and the nation will be immeasurable.

But for Obama’s election to have such an affect, the black community must use it wisely. Election night parties involving youth and including talks on the political history of the United States should be in the planning stages. Workshops, seminars and sermons retracing black history until today should be in the works.

An Obama inauguration should be an occasion for historical education and celebration, kicking off a few days early one of the most informative Black History Month commemorations of our lifetime.

Used properly as a tool of instruction and inspiration, Obama’s election could have an  impact on Black America, and indeed White America, not witnessed since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, black Civil Rights marchers defied obstructing law officers, and black college students refused to leave whites-only stools at lunch counters.

But now, as then, the black community has to be involved in order to reap its reward.

Obama’s election, if used properly, could be a catalyst for the changes black Americans have long hoped for.


June 17, 2008

The New Elitism

Filed under: African Americans — John Minter @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , ,

Many people justify expulsion of millions of undocumented workers on the basis of the ‘costs’ to the government for educational and medical services and they warn against admitting so many uneducated and untrained workers.

But this is the same elitist philosophy which undervalues labor. These are many of the same people who still refuse to admit the contribution to the economy of millions of slaves.

The wealthy landowners were more likely to lament the costs of feeding and housing his slaves than totaling the value of their labor.

America is yet to admit that having so much free labor not only benefited the southern agricultural economy, but also the northern industries as well.

Today, as many as 12 million undocumented workers are making a substantial financial contribution to this country.

And while we gladly enjoy the low-cost of the agricultural products many of them harvest for us, we’d rather talk about the costs of educating their children or treating their illnesses.

But that kind of thinking has implications in other areas of our capitalist economy. And the middle class is finding that their attack on illegal aliens may also soon, if not already, befall them.

For example, we don’t flinch anymore when our major industries layoff thousands of trained workers. Entire regions of the country have been decimated by such layoffs and plant closings, all in the name of greater efficiency and raising production. All the while these industries pay management and stockholders higher and higher bonuses and dividends.

How long can an economic system which undervalues labor survive. It may take a while, but eventually, the labor of China, India and other parts of the Pacific Rim will be used up. How then will capital survive without its twin, labor.

Perhaps we will all be replaced by machines.

Think about that the next time you want to send the young father mowing your lawn back to Latin America.

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